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History of Iowa National Weather Service Offices

The United States Weather Bureau took over national meteorological responsibilities in 1891, leading to Weather Bureau Offices being established throughout the country. Some offices handled forecasting operations, with a few specializing in river forecasts. As airplane travel increased in the 1920's and 1930's, offices sprung up at airports and provided aviation forecasts. In 1970, the United States Weather Bureau transitioned to the National Weather Service. By the 90's, all of the local offices across the nation were consolidated into around 120 forecast offices.

While the Weather Bureau was in operation, Iowa had 10 forecast offices. Those offices were located in Burlington, Charles City, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa Falls, Johnston, Keokuk, Sioux City, and Waterloo. Only two offices in remain today, Des Moines and Quad Cities.

The Burlington office operated from 1941-1964 as a Weather Bureau Office and as a Weather Bureau Airways Station. The original office started in Keokuk. Operations were transferred to the FAA in 1965 and the office became a Flight Service Station.

The Charles City office operation from 1904-1953 as a Weather Bureau Office. It became a special meteorological office in 1943 and then closed in 1953.

Quad Cities Weather Service Office

Davenport's office had many locations around the downtown area. It was opened by the Signal Service in 1871 and then changed ownership to the Weather Bureau in 1891. The Davenport facility closed in 1953, in which operations were transferred to the Moline facility. A new office for the Quad Cities opened at the Davenport airport in September of 1994. The Moline facility closed in 1995. The WSR-88D radar was installed in 1994 and upper air measurements were first taken in 1995. The office still obtains additional forecast and warning responsibility. Click here for more information on the history of the Davenport office.

Des Moines National Weather Service Office

The Des Moines office officially opened in 1878 by the Signal Service. From 1878-1929, the Weather Bureau moved this office four times around Des Moines. From 1950-1993, the office operated on the second floor of the Des Moines Airport Terminals. The office then moved to its current location at 9607 NW Beaver Dr in Johnston. Over the last 20 years, this office has seen many upgrades, including the WSR-88D radar, satellite imagery and computer models, and surface observation sites. Click here for more information about the currently operating Des Moines National Weather Service Office.

A Dubuque office was opened by the Signal Service in downtown Dubuque in 1873. Ownership was transferred to the Weather Bureau in 1891. The office moved in 1951 to the Dubuque Municipal Airport. Due to staffing issues, the office closed in 1981, but reopened a year later. It was officially closed in 1995, with its operations being transferred to the Quad Cities office.

A Weather Bureau Office in Iowa Falls was in operation from 1937-1941.

The Signal Service established an office in Keokuk in 1871 at the State Bank building and then moved to the Federal Building in 1889. The Weather Bureau took ownership of this office from the Signal Service in the 1890's. The office was downgraded to a special meteorological office in 1941 and it closed in 1948 after its operations were transferred to the Burlington office.

The Sioux City office has evidence that weather observations were first recorded there in 1857. The Signal Service opened the office officially in 1889, with the Weather Bureau took over in 1891. The station has been housed in The Chamber of Commerce building, the public library, the Federal Building, and the Post Office. An Airways Station was established in 1940, but it was consolidated in 1941. The office eventually closed in 1996 and operations were transferred to Sioux Falls, SD.

Waterloo Weather Service Office

Waterloo had a Weather Bureau Airport Station established in 1955 at the municipal airport. A WSR-74C radar was established in 1976, but the office closed in 1996, with some operations continuing in 1997. Our own Chief Meteorologist Mark Schnackenberg recorded official precipitation totals and relayed them to the Waterloo office from 1995-1997.


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Joie Bettenhausen


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